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Light Rail to Los Angeles International: A Questionable Proposition?

» New proposals for light rail connections to LAX put in question whether an extension project will offer any major benefits.

Of the nation’s largest cities, Los Angeles is one of the remaining few with no direct rail connection to its airport.* Over the past two decades, L.A. County has expanded its Metro Rail network considerably, but the closest it has gotten to a station at its largest airport — LAX — is a stop about a mile away from terminals on the Green Line light rail service, which does not reach downtown and requires customers to make a connection to a surface bus to get to and from check-in areas.

According to current plans, that will change in the next few decades. Metro dedicated $200 million to a light rail connector in its Measure R spending packaged passed by voters in 2008. The agency began studying potential direct links from its Green Line and the future Crenshaw Corridor, which will offer light rail in a corridor relatively close to the airport. In March, Metro revealed the initial results of the study, demonstrating that a rail connection would carry between 4,000 and 6,000 riders a day and cost between $600 million and $1.5 billion. Metro continues to study how best to connect the airport: With a rail branch line; with a re-routing of the rail corridor in a tunnel under the terminals; or with a connection to a new automated people mover or bus rapid transit line circulating around the airport. A locally preferred alternative for the corridor is to be selected in 2013 or 2014.

But new documents from L.A.’s airport authority put in question how feasible any airport-rail link would be. The agency offers three general locations for a light rail stop, two of which would include a branch of the Green Line or Crenshaw Corridor and require most customers to switch to the airport’s people mover, and the third of which would provide no additional light rail service at all. None would offer direct service from downtown.** Is this rail connection worth the massive investment in transit funding that consensus suggests is necessary?

The fundamental difficulty is that the airport authority — Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) — seems awfully reluctant to allow trains into the main terminal area. While Metro’s spring proposals suggest a light rail loop, an elevated line, or an underground tunnel directly adjacent to the central areas of the nine-terminal complex, the closest LAWA is willing to come is an “on-airport” station at the far eastern edge of the terminals area (see image (1) below). A station there, built as an extension of the Crenshaw Corridor, would be more than a half-mile from the international terminal at the western edge of the complex. Yes, light rail would get customers closer to check in areas, but few would be within comfortable distance walking, particularly with heavy bags.

The same is true of LAWA’s second proposal (see (2) below), which would extend light rail from the Crenshaw Corridor as a branch to a new intermodal transportation facility. Customers arriving here would have no ability to walk to any terminals.

In both cases, LAWA proposes a new people mover that would allow for the final connection between the light rail stations and the terminals themselves. The people mover would operate in a loop around the eight terminals, then extend to the intermodal facility, pass by the Crenshaw Corridor station planned for the intersection of Century and Aviation Boulevards (about a mile from the airport entrance), and terminate at a consolidated rental car facility.

From the airport’s perspective, there are solid reasons to support the construction of such a people mover. It would improve the connectivity between terminals for non-“transit”-using airport passengers and it would decrease road congestion by eliminating rental car and public buses from the areas in front of the terminals.

Light rail branch to airport.

(1) Light rail branch to airport. Source: The Source.

Light rail branch to intermodal center.

(2) Light rail branch to intermodal center. Source: The Source.

But these proposals effectively duplicate light rail and people mover services, requiring passengers to use both no matter the circumstances. Certain of Metro’s proposals — albeit the more expensive ones — would have allowed customers direct service to terminals on light rail, which would have resulted in significant travel time savings due to the lack of transfers. Here, those direct links have been eliminated from the discussion. Why spend public funds on two similar rail services operating in the same corridor?

If we are to take it as a given that LAWA absolutely must have a people mover and that it is reluctant to allow light rail into the main terminals area, its third proposal (see (3) below) comes across as more appealing. The light rail station at Crenshaw and Aviation, on the main trunk of the Crenshaw Corridor, would provide a bridged transfer to the people mover system, which would then offer a link to all of the airport’s terminals.

Proposed connection between Crenshaw Light Rail and LAX people mover.

(3) Proposed connection between Crenshaw Light Rail and LAX people mover. Source: The Source.

Yet this proposal also has its downsides. LAWA’s visual description of the proposed connection suggests that light rail customers would have to ascend an escalator, cross a broad boulevard on an elevated bridge, then descend an escalator, to get to the people mover. It is certainly possible to envision a more convenient approach to making this connection. Every step that makes using transit easier attracts an additional customer.

Nonetheless, this approach, which would keep light rail services within the already-funded Crenshaw Corridor, has the added benefit of ensuring adequate frequency on the light rail line. The branch corridors proposed by the first and second options would, in effect, split rail service in two: Half the trains might extend to LAX, with the rest heading in the other direction. In the case of the Green Line, assuming that headways — currently 7.5 minutes at peak — remain the same (which would not be surprising considering the relatively small number of riders expected to actually use the airport connection), splitting the service in two would reduce peak headways to just every 15 minutes. Is that acceptable for rapid transit service? Or will such low headways make it impossible to attract “choice” riders?

Providing people mover service from the main line light rail corridor would guarantee that all users of the Crenshaw Corridor have one-transfer service to all of the airport’s terminals. And indeed, the whole concept of direct light rail service to an airport like LAX may not make much sense. Unlike smaller airports with only one or two terminals or very centralized airports (like Washington Dulles, with one main entrance facility), LAX has many terminals spread across a large area, making one or even two stops too dispersed; more stops, however, would be too expensive to construct for a light rail line. It shares these features with New York’s JFK and Phoenix, for example, both of which have chosen the rail-to-people mover approach that comes across as most reasonable in L.A.’s case.

Requiring passengers to transfer to a people mover from the trunk of the light rail line has the added benefit of putting the onus of financing the rail connection in the hands of the (relatively more wealthy) airport authority, rather than Metro. This is perhaps the most important point of all. Though Metro has allocated $200 million to this project, it would need far more than that to complete the branch extensions envisioned in the first or second proposal presented above. But the third proposal, which would build off the already funded Crenshaw Corridor using only the airport-desired people mover, could — and should — be funded by LAWA, perhaps with only a small contribution from Metro. This would allow the transit authority to avoid spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a project that would benefit few passengers and force the airport’s users, the people who would be using the rail-airport connection, to pay for it.

* Other than L.A., Detroit, Houston, and San Diego are the biggest metropolitan areas with no rail connections to their respective airports. Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Providence, St. Louis, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington all offer rail connections of some kind to at least one of their airports. Boston does not have a rail connection but has the BRT Silver Line to the airport. Dallas and Salt Lake City will be adding connections in 2014 and 2013, respectively.

** Downtown-to-airport rail service may be addressed sometime in the future if funds can be assembled for regional rail operations on the Harbor Subdivision, as some have proposed.

88 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • NCarlson

    Honestly, given that the people mover was more or less on the table whether Crenshaw or the Green line extension happened the idea of a branch to the airport of any form has really never made much sense to me. The funding is really not a bad thing, but it seems pretty clear the most appropriate use of it is to make the transfer to a peoplemover, from the main LRT line, work as well as possible; cross platform doesn’t seem likely given the geometry involved, but I see no reason that it shouldn’t be possible to do it with a single level change and little or no horizontal separation.

  • Miles Bader

    Has LAWA given an excuse for their reticence ?

  • djplong

    I wouldn’t include Boston in that list. In fact, Boston should be an example of what LA should NOT do. Yes, there’s a stop on the Blue Line labelled “Airport”, but you have to take a street-level bus that doesn’t run often enough and is too crowded (especially with luggage). You also have the Silver Line bus that turns into BRT after the tunnel towards downtown – which they purposefully route in a roundabout way around the convention center to make slower and, again, runs too infrequently. Never mind if your plane came in at Terminal E – you’ll NEVER get a seat.

    • Miles Bader

      That sort of complete cock-up seems pretty much par for the course for U.S. airport rail links.

      Why…? Airports in other countries generally seem to have the right idea (“put train station as close as possible to terminal, make final walk pleasant and short”)…

      • Beta Magellan

        To be fair, what we now call the Blue Line was running long before the airport became any sort of major destination—adding the airport station was pretty much a half-century later afterthought (~thirty years if you’re counting from conversion to rapid transit) and never the main objective of the line.

    • You are right that Boston does not have a direct connection, in fact, it is similar to what LA sounds like now, where the train station is just under a mile away from the terminals.

      I would disagree with your characterization of the shuttle buses. They run on 5 minute headways most of the day, they just purchased nice new low-floor ones (finally) and the Blue Line + shuttle route to the airport is generally preferable over the Silver Line “BRT” unless you are coming from the Red Line (which does not connect to the Blue).

      I would say that the shuttle or people-mover alternative is the one that LA should pursue. Having an airport station is not important enough to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to go out of your way or make operations worse. It just doesn’t get enough use. And a lot of people skip using it anyway because of luggage, they instead choose shared vans or taxis.

      • Yes, it’s a bit odd I included Boston in that list, considering I am a not-so-happy user of the Silver Line practically every month. But clearly the Silver-Line-is-Rapid-Transit message brought to me by the MBTA is working on my subconscious…

        • Yeah, when I’d fly into Boston, I’d usually use the Silver Line to get to South Station. I heartily endorse the vernacular “The Silver Lie” and use it whenever possible. The frequency is crap, waiting outside for 15 minutes in the cold is hellish*, the speed is meh. There’s usually space for luggage, but it’s less nice than the very non-special M60.

          *In cold regions, hell is cold rather than warm.

    • Erik Griswold

      The sad thing about Boston is that there was a huge opportunity to bring intercity/commuter rail to Logan during the Big Dig. The Ted Williams tunnel could have easily been designed to handle rail too.

      • The even sadder thing is that there was a huge opportunity to build the multiple-orders-of-magnitude more important North-South Rail Link, which Boston is obligated to do by a court order that it’s ignoring. It’s nothing that couldn’t be a fixed by a judge with enough balls to order the Central Artery tunnel closed until the state legislature finds money for the NSRL.

        • Nathanael

          The state of MA managed to weasel out of the NSRL court order completely. They’re still trying to weasel out of several other important court orders, though, and have not weaseled out of all of them yet. They’re still trying.

  • Allan

    The APM is a good solution that works, especially in built up urban environments that bring their own set of challenges. See Newark and JFK AirTrain. Not as ideal as a direct connection, but in the era of fiscal restraint this type of connection is workable and practical. Once people get used to the concept, it just becomes part of the trip planning process.

  • Tom West

    The trouble with using LRT for inter-terminal moves is that LRT’s service levels will be set by the agency operating the LRT, not the airport. The airport (probably) wants 24-hour high-frequency service, and demand on the rest of the line (probably) won’t justify that. Hence the conflict.

    • Brian L.

      They could always decide to operate the LRT segment between the terminals 24/7, even when the rest of the line doesn’t operate. That’s what they do in the Twin Cities, where the Hiawatha Line is the connection between the Lindbergh and Humphrey Terminals and operates 24/7.

  • alen

    JFK has the air train and i always take a taxi to the airport

    to get to the air train i first have to take the subway and then climb up to the air train. and its literally a half mile walk from the station to the terminal and ticketing

    no thanks. i’ll take a cab or drive

    • Erik Griswold

      Have you tried the LIRR to Jamaica and then AirTrain? It is pretty fast and not that bad.

    • Woody

      AirTrain is lousy in many ways. But in fact, at the Howard Beach A-train station, you can take one of two elevators to the AirTrain level with any heavy bags.

      Now, the system is a sure winner for “Worst Signage” segment, and a contender in the overall “Worst Design” contest. The chauffeured-limousine-riding authorities of the Port Authority did not lower their facility’s image by using the low-rent word “subway” anywhere. Billions of people around the world know what is “subway” in NYC. But to make quick decisions about AirTrain, you must understand the inside lingo “Howard Beach Station.”

      And as you enter the waiting area, trains arrive on either side. Because the signs are not at right angles to the platform doors, you need to be all the way to the middle of the platform before you can read where the approaching train is going. So you are invited to run and break your neck to catch a train that may or may not be heading where you want to go.

      The Devil is in the details and AirTrain is Hellish.

      Don’t get me started on pay-per-use baggage carts. Carts are free in more civilized countries. (Who knew Socialism is allowing customers free use of baggage carts? We’re lucky pay toilets were banned here many years ago.) They are not designed for easy payment by foreigners trying to cope with English as their second language, surely lacking exact change, and perhaps not yet knowing how to use the appropriate piece of plastic in good ole USA.

  • jon

    What about the Harbor Subdivision route which Metro is studying? Seems to me the best way to serve the airport with a higher speed direct link to downtown, perhaps with EMUs similar to Denver Airport service. Just have a direct Union Station to LAX route, which will be especially critical with CA HSR. Sure its important to have a connection with the airport by LRT at the Green or Crenshaw line, but that shouldnt be the only link or primary link.

    • Andrew in Ezo

      Second that. Electrified “heavy rail” emus running as an “airport express” utilizing the former ATSF Harbor Sub alignment are far superior than slow LRT. Build two underground stations within the terminal group cluster- one closer to Sepulveda that serves the domestic terminals and one at the end that serves the international terminal and any adjacent terminals. You can also run RER style operations that bypass Union Station and go on to suburban destinations such as Fullerton, which would attract users that would otherwise drive and_never_take light rail. If built to mainline standards, one can even run HSR trainsets into the airport. Of course, what would be a matter of course in other parts of the world is seemingly fantasy in the U.S., so this is pie in the sky thinking, I admit.

      • Nathanael

        There’s trouble getting along the north end of the Harbor Sub to Union Station. Oh, it’s possible, but some really complicated bridge work would probably be required.

    • Jonah

      The only thing is that not everyone is coming from / to downtown, just as many people will come from other major destinations. The Crenshaw Corridor’s connection with the expo means people coming from the West Side / Santa Monica have good connectivity, while the green line’s southern extension will bring in users from the South Bay. Add in the eventual extension of the Crenshaw line to Hollywood and you’ve covered a lot of the major destinations…

  • OC_DC

    Good post but I haev a couple of issues.

    1) “Of the nation’s largest cities, Los Angeles is one of the remaining few with no direct rail connection to its airport.* This is not entirely correct. Bob Hope airport in Burbank has a Metrolink and Amtrak station just a few hundred yards away from the terminal. It is not right at the terminal but close enough to the airport to count as an air/rail intermodal link. It’s certainly as close as the Amtrak station at BWI.

    2) I don’t know what the fascination in this article is about a direct airport-downtown connnection. Yes, downtown LA is booming these days and that is good to see but many of the LA County residents live on the westside and many of the jobs are concentrated along the Wilshire Corridor. The Crenshaw line certainly seems to serve these areas.

    3) I hope airports in general and LAX, in particular, use their rail connections not just to provide a connection ot the airport but also as an economic development tool. Airports own a significant amount of land (often surface parking lots), they usually have a high number of jobs located nearby and are also served by roads and highways. The photo above shows many surface parking lots next to the proposed station. Developing these lots into offices would not only provide LA World Airports with revenue from the rents/leases, but would also provide LA MTA with expanded ridership in the area around the station.

    • Aaron

      Just a small point, BWI does have a direct rail connection to Baltimore. The light rail goes right up to the terminal. For connections to DC, one must take a bus to the Amtrak/MARC station (which I’ve done so once and it was exceedingly convenient).

    • Tony

      #3 is the best reason I’ve heard to build rail to the airport. The estimate shows ridership to the airport will be dismal (4-6K daily). But as rail lines have always been economic drivers, the airport stop could be a way to entice development on a lot of currently undeveloped land.

      I do believe however that the above reason alone should be enough to justify $1 billion in limited metro funds. There exist so many other locations that have current demand for improved transit and if transit is improved there, would also lead to economic development.

      So because of the opportunity cost involved in building the airport connector, I still do not support it and hope that it does not get built for a long while.

    • Beta Magellan

      There are sometimes issues on development that close to the airport—I’ve been following redevelopment plans west of O’Hare and the buildings’ heights actually increase with distance from the airport to accommodate planes’ descents.

      Building rail to an airport with TOD in mind is a risky strategy, though—first, development doesn’t always happen where you want it to (Massachusetts has long tried to turn Logan into an aerotropolis without success). Secondly, airports typically have excellent highway connections and tend to be in areas of lower population density—any development around the airport would likely be auto-oriented but served by transit rather than vice-versa.

      • While this is broadly true, it certainly isn’t impossible to have airport TOD. If an urban area doesn’t have room to sprawl into, then eventually the area around the airport will grow denser, if not taller. (See: Gilbraltar and Kai Tak in Hong Kong.)

        What Americans normally refer to as TOD (mixed-use residential, retail, and commercial) PROBABLY wouldn’t develop around an airport, because in nearly all urban areas there are more desirable places to build without the extra noise pollution. If it did occur, you would see campaigns for reduced flight hours (LGA, Tokyo Haneda, and Heathrow are a few examples of where this has been attempted). Runway expansion would pretty much never happen, and eventually they would try to move the airport somewhere else, as in Hong Kong’s example.

        • Andre L.

          The airports you mention are not optimal outcomes at all. There is a good deal of noise pollution generated by the normal activities or airports, and that could, later, translate in extensive protracted battles between newcomers (especially if there are residential developments) and the needs of the airport site.

          Moreover, you never know when/how are you going to expand or completely rebuilt terminal facilities, reason by which having a non-built airport site is almost always better than having an airport squeezes between third-party used buildings.

          • I never said these were great outcomes – airports shouldn’t have high-density anything around them because there’s a lot of pollution and traffic generated by airports.

            The trend in recent years has been to relocate airports at arms length away from the city center. Pretty much every big-name Asian city has replaced a former in-city airport with one on the urban fringes (Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, Shanghai, Guangzhou, etc.) because of these problems.

            My point was to say that, while, sure airport TOD may not be well advised or well situated, it’s certainly not impossible. The only airports that I can think of that could conceivably host some development would be Montreal Mirabel and maybe Denver.

      • OC_DC

        Not true at all– jobs are disproportionately located near airports: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/jobs-and-economy/2012/12/airports-where-jobs-are/4046/. LAX already has a high number of jobs located around the airport and elsewhere in Southern California, the densest concentration of jobs in Orange County is located right next to Santa Ana/John Wayne.

        In the Washington area, there is already a high concentration of jobs right next to Reagan-National airport in Crystal City.

        Noise is a concern for development on airport-owned property but with jobs and office development, noise and sleep disruption simply does not have the same importance. Additionally, today’s aircraft are much quieter and modern construction techniques can help minimize noise.

        • The reason you don’t see much development next tot the proposed Century-Aviation Airport station is because the area south of Century Blvd (which includes the proposed Metrorail-APM station) its under LAX flight path. Don’t worry about development around the station. There will be plenty more coming on Century Blvd.

    • Nathanael

      “2) I don’t know what the fascination in this article is about a direct airport-downtown connnection. ”

      Get visitors, who we hope will in future be arriving by intercity rail, to the airport district to the many conventions which are located in that area. Well, that’s the most useful reason I can think of.

  • Patrick

    A people mover to an external rail station makes sense. It was one of the options studied when BART to SFO was built. That would have had the SFO people mover extend across US 101 to the Millbrae BART/Caltrain Station. But no, there was a clamor to bring BART into SFO, which greatly increased the cost. Was it worth it? I’m not so sure. The only terminal that connects with BART is the International Terminal. Most domestic passengers who take BART to SFO still need a people mover to get to their gates.

    • Erik Griswold

      Really? It isn’t that far a walk, even from BART to Terminal 2. Same will be the case for The “Terminal 0″ to Bradley Terminal walk at LAX if Option 1 is chosen. Of course, LAWA setting up an “all-airlines” bag check at the LRT station would do wonders and is the norm at many airports world wide. LAWA even once offered such a service at L.A. Union Station in conjunction with the FlyAway bus.

      • Miles Bader

        One thing about SFO is that the “people mover” was completely botched, requiring a long/confusing/depressing trek through parking gararages to get to the stations from the terminals. In my experience it’s faster and more pleasant to just walk between terminals at SFO (even if they’re not adjacent).

        Whether LA’s people mover will be similarly awful, I dunno, but the diagrams do make it look disturbingly parking-focused…

        • Patrick

          SFO’s AirTrain doesn’t seem botched to me. Where are you taking it to/from? I’ve taken it from the SFO BART Station to the terminal, and from the terminal to the BART Station and there are no long/confusing/depressing treks. The only thing I don’t like is having to go downstairs to claim baggage and then going upstairs to the people mover.

          I’ve also taken it from the terminal to the rental car facility. That was pretty quick and efficient, too. Maybe you run into those long/confusing/depressing treks if you are taking the ArTrainfrom the long distance garage, but hey, you should be taking public transit to the airport.

        • Tim E

          Have to agree with Patrick, I don’t really think SFO airtrain is botched. Not many people are going between terminals except for international passengers. Instead, I think a lot of users like myself are either making their way to BART or Rental Car. It works, its functional, and not very long waits. Unfortunately, big airports like SFO are going to be difficult until you know the lay of the land. Could they routed it closer or insider the terminals, maybe, but can’t begin to comprehend that cost.

          What I wish for is the extension to the long term parking garage. Not a big fan of shuttle buses, either it be rentals cars, parking lots and so forth.

    • Patrick

      How far is “far” is subjective. For a young, healthy person who is not pressed for time the distance is walkable. For an older or motion-impaired person, or for someone who is running late for her flight, not so much.

  • david vartanoff

    As Patrick points out in the SFO case, “direct” rail to only one of many terminals is no advantage to users of the others. The far more critical issues are having the APM directly ‘cross platform from the transit as opposed to (SFO for instance) an escalator ride up or down. Unmentioned in this survey of options is whether LAWA will mandate monthly passes as a job perk for the ground personnel.

  • The rendering of the light rail-APM transfer station is actually quite similar to the AirTrain in New York – you have to take an elevator up to a passageway across the LIRR tracks to get to the AirTrain platform.

  • Patrick

    “Yet this proposal also has its downsides. LAWA’s visual description of the proposed connection suggests that light rail customers would have to ascend an escalator, cross a broad boulevard on an elevated bridge, then descend an escalator, to get to the people mover.”

    Why not lower the boulevard to below grade, and permit light rail customers to cross to the people mover at grade? It would add to the project costs, but would reduce operating costs over time.

    • I can’t say as I’m not a local, but from the rendering it seems like that several parking lots have entrances on that road. Making the road below grade would either require access ramps or just getting rid of road access altogether.

      Also, the transfer IMO should be either cross-platform or just up one escalator to the next platform. To my knowledge, APMs can’t have grade crossings.

    • Nathanael

      More disturbingly, at the proposed location *both* the “people mover” and the Crenshaw Line will be elevated. There is no reason whatsoever to put them on opposite sides of a boulevard.

      A couple of ways to do it: the People Mover could be stacked directly on top of the Crenshaw Line, both with island platforms (vertical transfer); the People Mover could be wrapped around the Crenshaw Line platforms (cross-platform transfer).

      LAWA’s proposal is just *stupid*. Positively hostile to the very idea of connecting to the light rail. Management heads at LAWA need to roll. Someone who cares needs to be put in charge.

  • JJJ

    I fully agree that a light rail branch into the airport makes no sense. Have the APM meet up with the rail line where the rail line currently is.

    Especially good point that airport APMs must be 24/7 at 5 min (or less) frequencies. The light rail not so much/

    • Tim E

      Second that opinion, The one big benefit of APM is in its name. It is the least labor intensive means of moving people in and out and around airports. Therefore, 5 min headways is reasonable and will accomondate any traveller who makes a reasonable effort to be at the airport early enough. If not, that is why their is high priced hourly parking located near most Terminals.

      While I don’t think SFO airtran/APM was botched. I do agree that SFO BART extension wasn’t the best choice. A APM/BART/Caltrain station was a better option for the region. Considering that SFO airtran has two loops, one serving terminals only and one serving termingals and rental car that can easily be extending to long term parking.

      • Dudley Horscroft

        JJJ and Tim E are both correct. No way should the light rail/metro run into the airport, UNLESS you can justify the line on a north south route that runs under the terminal buildings. I doubt that.

        But instead of an intermittent people mover with 5 minute or worse headways, you could use a “Never Stop Railway” (NSR). This offers immediate boarding and a reasonable transit time to the nearest terminal. By using a moving pavement to give access to the cars at 3 mph the speed differential of 8 to 1 would enable a line speed of 24 mph, ample for a trip of about 1 mile. This could even be retrofitted for a station with side platforms, as the NSR cars would run on the outside of the platforms, giving very easy cross platform interchange. One line of the NSR from the airport would cross over the tracks at the south end of the station and then come down to the platform level for the CBD bound trains, the LAX bound NSR would do the same at the north end of the station to connect with the trains cfrom the CBD, so as to give a nearly seamless ride (usual connexions between platforms for people who want to go in the other direction).

        In LAX the NSR would slow for each terminal, probably not speed up too much between them.

        The 1924/5 system used a continuous spiral to accelerate, propel and brake the cars. In a modern system the spirals would be only used for acceleration and braking; propulsion between spirals would be cable hauled, reducing costs. This system was basically a ‘fun-fair’ system in terms of comfort – a modern system would use modern materials and be consistent with current ideas of comfort. In the two seasons of operation the NSR carried 2 million people without accident and was so cheap to run that no charge was made during the second season. It was a 1.4 mile loop, with 88 cars with 18 seats each, and needed 180 kW to operate at a top speed of 16 mph.

        The NSR is the way to go.

  • Malcolm M

    The LA Crenshaw line won’t go to Downtown, but will terminate at the Expo Line, requiring passengers to make another transfer. I’m surprised neither the article nor commenters have pointed this out. This extra change would reduce market share yet again. Much of the market for airport rail lines is from people on business who stay in downtown hotels or participate in downtown meetings. Rail can have a market edge for this portion of the market because of speed and reliability. In LA’s case it won’t have this edge. Most of the market would instead be airport workers.

    • The Crenshaw Line terminus at Expo-Crenshaw is short term. LA MTA has prelim (no funding & no public announcement) plans to extend that Light Rail line further north up Crenshaw Blvd, then west at Venice Blvd and continuing up San Vincente Blvd, then north at either LaBrea Ave or Fairfax Ave to intersect the Metro Purple Line on Wilshire Blvd, http://maps.google.com/maps?q=LOs+Angeles+map&ll=34.051806,-118.345585&spn=0.04921,0.090809&client=safari&oe=UTF-8&hnear=Los+Angeles,+California&gl=us&t=m&z=14

      This northerly extension is inevitable because LA MTA and the Federal Transit Authority want Metro line interconnections to increase transit utility and Patrons Per MIle of Construction Cost. The latter feature will help LA better qualify for future Federal Transit funds. Extending Crenshaw Line north-northwest would bring Light Rail to the popular Pico-San Vincente-Venice redevelopment area in Mid-City and increase local political support.

      Extensive use of Venice Blvd and San Vincente Blvd are important because they are wide publicly-owned boulevards that can host surface Light Rail in their medians, while extending in a northwest direction closer to Wilshire Blvd for lower construction cost per mile. The 3.9 mile Purple Line Westside expansion will have stations at Wilshire-LaBrea, Wilshire-Fairfax and Wilshire-LaCienega, but not Wilshire-San Vincente. Hence, the Crenshaw Line will need to turn north at either LaBrea Ave or Fairfax Ave.

      Whether Fairfax or LaBrea alignment to Wilshire Blvd is chosen, I suspect LA MTA will decide in 1H 2013 because they have to preserve ROW and utility relocation above or below Purple Line expansion before Purple Line construction starts in 2014. Though every alignment involves public debate, my preference is the Fairfax-Wilshire alignment for several practical reasons:

      1. Though Fairfax-Wilshire Station and LaBrea-Wilshre Station on the Purple Line extension will both be walking distance to Mid-Wilshire office district, the popular and politically powerful LA County Museum of Art (LACMA) and Petersen Automotive Museum are already adjacent to Wilshire-Fairfax intersection
      2. The multi-million dollar Hollywood Museum is coming to LACMA’s corner at Wilshire-Fairfax, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/academy-lacma-oscar-museum-244616
      3. Tunneling from San Vincente-Fairfax to Wilshire Blvd is shorter (less expensive) than tunneling from San Vincente-LaBrea to Wilshire Blvd
      4. There’s more room for Transit-Oriented Development just west of Fairfax-Wilshire.
      5. Fairfax alignment provides two Light Rail stations and more transit-equity to West Hollywood vs. one such Light Rail station in the LaBrea alignment
      6. Fairfax alignment sets the table for high Patrons Per Mile of Construction Cost tunneling underground to Fairfax-Farmers Market, Fairfax-Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica Blvd-LaBrea and Hollywood-Highland connection to Metro Red Line.

      By 2028-30, wouldn’t it be cool to have a one-seat ride from LAX Airport Station to Expo Line, to Purple Line, to Red Line in Hollywood?

  • Matt T

    Well balanced appraisal of the options given constraints imposed by LAWA. Small correction to the list, the rail connection to Denver International Airport is not scheduled to open until 2016 as part of FastTracks.

  • A transit-friendly airport design requires the airport to orient itself more along the transit station. This requires a lot of careful pre-planning. For example, take Zurich: traditionally, there was an intra-European terminal (A/B) and an intercontinental one (E), with a people mover between the two, and a train station at the intra-European terminal. But recently they built Terminal D, which is intercontinental like E but is physically located with A/B; to avoid multiple border controls on one trip, they had to divide the people mover into two halves, with a glass wall between the two halves of each station, so that one half is intra-Schengen and the other isn’t.

    I believe the optimal design is something like Atlanta: there’s a train station at the check-in area, a common check-in and security area, and then a bunch of terminals with airside connections. LAX has airside connections between some terminals, but to have a transit-friendly design, it needs to revamp itself along Atlanta’s lines. This probably means building a landside terminal in the middle between the existing terminals, and building purely airside connections from past that terminal’s security line to all the existing terminals and also between those terminals in a circular pattern. All of this is airport design; it’s transit-friendlier than any JFK-like design requiring an additional transfer, but it’s also used at airports that want optimal circulation independently of access mode.

    Unless it’s set in stone that only one mode of transit will serve the airport, LAX should also reserve space for four tracks – two light rail, two mainline for intercity and local direct service to LAUS. That part can come from Measure R funds; everything else is an airport improvement, and to spend Measure R funds on it is no different from forcing the MBTA to take on debt for highway mitigations.

    • Andre L.

      Depending on the layout of the runways and space available for terminals, it is impossible to organize terminals that way, at least without major reconstruction on the multi-billion $ territory.

      On LAX site, it would be challenging to rebuild the whole 8 terminals with a single passenger processing facility distributing passengers to the many terminals internally (beyond security, like Denver). But at least it has a logical location for any transit connection, unlike JFK.

    • Max Wyss

      The situation in Zürich is a little bit different than mentioned. Originally, there were two terminals, one used to be “intercontinental” (Terminal B) and “Europe” (Terminal A) (note that these designations have now changed). Later on, they changed it so that the base carrier (the now defunct Swissair) and its partners were using Terminal A, and “the rest of the world” used Terminal B.

      When the “dock midfield” (now known as Terminal E) came into operation, the old Terminal B got shut down, and intercontinental got mainly assigned to the Terminal E. This terminal has no landside connection; all access goes via the mentiond peoplemover, and is airside. Because of this, one can not compare this people mover with others, such as the AirTrain at JFK.

      Now, with Switzerland joining Schengen, the old Terminal B got reactivated, in order to have a better separation between Schengen traffic and non-Schengen traffic, but the access to the Terminal E has still to be separated between Schengen and non-Schengen, because the immigration desks are at the “head” of the airport, and Schengen passengers do not need to pass immigration.

      Therefore, the Zürich design is not that much different from the Atlanta design, just with the difference that most of the gates can be reached by foot from the border control/security center, and only the midfield terminal needs the people mover.

      Now, when it comes to landside access of Zürich airport, things are quite a bit different. The train station is connected to the mainline network, and all except one big tourist regions (ok, another one isn’t either; it’s the Grisons and the Ticino) are connected with direct trains running at least every hour. Parallel to that, there are S-Bahn trains, and all connect the airport to Zürich Hauptbahnhof within 12 minutes.

      There is also a light rail access to the airport (Glattalbahn; lines 10 and 12), operating each at 15 min intervals, with denser operation during weekday morning and evening peaks. The light rail stop is on the same level as the 16 bay regional bus terminal, which is on top of the rail station.

      When it comes to numbers, the light rail lines have around 5000 daily passengers, the SBB statin has around 45000 daily passengers, and the buses provide another 15000 passengers or so. In fact, if I remember correctly, around 60% of all people coming to the airport use transit (be it as airline passenger, as worker or as visitor/shopper). The airport is exempt from the normal regulations about store hours, and may be open on any day, even sundays, until rather late in the evening. This led to the airport becoming an important shopping center as well, and the shoppers come using transit.

      The airport and the Verkehrsbetriebe Glattal (operating the light rail lines and several regional bus lines) are working together closely to provide access for people working at the airport as well as for passengers for early flights.

      • Oh, I know things are very different landside. I was commenting on a specific airside feature that is best avoided.

        I didn’t know the earlier history of the airport’s infrastructure, to be honest. I started using it regularly in 2006, by which time the situation was Terminal A+B for Europe and Terminal E for the rest. Switzerland hadn’t yet joined Schengen, but when it did, the placement of the immigration gates between Terminal E’s gates and the rest of the airport seemed natural. This in contrast with Terminal D and the divided people mover of today, which seem awkward.

        With LAX, the reason I keep plugging a mainline rail solution is precisely so that intercity trains can go there. The current projections are that there will be much more HSR ridership coming into Los Angeles from the north than from the south, and the extra trains could then divert south to LAX to provide direct airport service from Bakersfield and Fresno.

        On top of that, the existing rail line, although it’s currently single-track and at-grade, could if modernized (which means a difficult community battle to get the line double-tracked and elevated) also provide local service to neighborhoods that lack it. There’s room in the middle for an overtake segment to allow HSR and express commuter trains to not get stuck behind local trains while still permitting 10-minute frequency. With commuter rail, like with HSR, most demand is from the north, counting the San Bernardino Line as north once LA run-through tracks open, and this means again that there’s a good service plan for trains to serve LAX. (This requires electrifying Metrolink and getting high-acceleration vehicles, but frankly that’s a smaller fight than convincing South LA and Inglewood that an elevated commuter line will serve them.)

        But where I’m plugging Atlanta as a good case to follow is for the intra-airport connections. Of course, approximately nobody rides transit of any sort in Atlanta, but usage of the airside people mover is very high. Because LAX is so big and has terminals arranged in a ring configuration, this suggests that the best way to do things is to build one train station in the middle, say where parking garages 1 and 7 are now, and do the check-ins there. Obviously it’s not applicable to JFK, but LAX has terminals that are close enough to one another that airside connections either exist or can be built easily. This may also require an airside people mover circling around, but I think the distances within LAX are short enough that moving walkways are enough.

        • Max Wyss

          Actually, before Switzerland joined Schengen, any flight was international, and the first thing you did when leaving via Zürich, was going through immigration, and it was kind of centralized … as it is now, and there has always been an airside connection between the two terminals.

          With Schengen, any airport has the issues about separating Schengen and non-Schengen traffic; The people mover in Frankfurt is also segregated, for example.

          The US does not have to bother about such issues, because there is no proper exit border control, and no real international transit area; even just when changing planes between non-US countries, you have to immigrate into the US.

          Such operational premises do influence the design of an airport. For overall efficiency, it is preferrable, IMHO, to centralize the interface points between airside and landside. This is, of course very difficult with airports with mutiple terminals, assigned to (or owned by) specific airlines. (I wish there were airside connections in JFK, allowing to avoid the security check kindergarten in Terminal 4… (or even more so in terminals 2/3)).

          About Atlanta, isn’t there also just a single landside access point? I believe to remember that the actual terminals are all airside; that, of course is the big reason for using the people mover, because you don’t have access to your beloved car when getting to the gates, or changing planes.

          About LAX, I am not sure to what extent the tenants would like airside connectors, because that would lessen the ties to the individual airlines (although there is always the issue of international arrivals.

          Anyway, it would be great if commuter rail could be connected to LAX, as that could – with smart line configuration – provide a good connection from many places. And if HSR could be linked through (and also linked to SFO), it could provide a good number of additional passengers.

        • Alon,
          Having a direct LAX-LA Union Station rail connection using the Harbor Subdivision is unquestionably needed. But since LA is a massive poly-centric metro area, its transportation challenges require a poly-centric solution that does not fit neatly with prioritizing all lines to downtown above other lines.

          Furthermore, LA’s transit infrastructure is so far behind, even if a LAX-LA Union Station Metrorail, Westside Subway, and 4 more Metrorail projects completed by 2022, alternatives to traffic congestion would suck. LA County requires a comprehensive Metrorail master concept to mitigate traffic congestion. Such a master concept can also prevent building new Metrorail lines as ill-advised stub-ends, like LAX Airport Station options 1 and 2.

          A transit advocate and I composed such a “master concept” in the form of a LA Metrorail Concept Map 2035, http://www.soulofamerica.com/la-metrorail-concept-map-2035.phtml We know our Concept Map is not perfect. Yes there will be alignment fights and tough Cost Per Patron Mile and Transit Equity choices have to be made. But there’s more good in it than we we’ve seen from any other LA Metrorail Concept Map.

          Given the aggressive date, we assume that global and national events trigger a change in American infrastructure priorities favoring transit and high-speed rail beginning 2014. In other words, over the 2014-2035 period, Federal Transit funding boosts from the current $9 billion/year to $20-30 billion/year. Given the status of LA, Chicago, NYC, SF, Boston and Washington and their focus on transit expansion, I assume that those metro areas get a disproportionately larger share transit funding – perhaps $30 billion to LA over that period.

          With that level of federal anchor funding, the nation’s 2nd largest metro area can give 1 million daily commuters comprehensive rail transit alternatives to auto congestion without cutting bus service. If the plan is backed by LA Metro and political leaders, it will also prevent Laurel & Hardy-stupid proposals to build a tollway (“limousine”) tunnel under 405 Freeway from being taken seriously, http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_22265223/tunnel-beneath-sepulveda-pass-or-widen-405-freeway

          Don’t laugh. LA just spent about $1.2 billion expanding I-405 Freeway through Sepulveda Pass and many people foolishly believe its going to mitigate traffic congestion.

          • Matt

            LA didn’t really spend $1.2B on I-405. That money all pretty much came from the feds per our national transportation policy. Unfortunately, it is foolish to think that in 2014 our national policies towards transportation infrastructure will suddenly change. It will simply not happen if it hasn’t already.

            • Foolish you say … The 2010 Election quickly changed Congress. Big change can happen in the 2014 Election as well. If Congressional Republicans aren’t perceived as helping to create more jobs by then …

              • Matt

                Even with a Dem. Congress and Dem. President in 2009 and 2010, we didn’t see anywhere near the doubling or tripling of federal transit dollars that you are talking about. We are now in the Era of American Austerity, which will require budget cutting much more than expansion.

                Not that it matters so much given the above for this conversation, but it is highly unlikely that the Repubs. will lose their majority in the House in 2014. They have safe gerrymandered districts and the opposition party almost always gains seats in the final 2 years of a Presidency. (I say this as a Dem).

                You have a nice map, but it is totally unrealistic given the current funding environment.

              • Matt, strange things happen in fiscal negotiations and before elections.

                Though Tea Party Congresspersons don’t care for Transit and HSR, as far as they are concerned, both items are lesser evils compared to Social Program Entitlements. Moderate Republicans like transportation investment and recently, a large number of Congressional Republicans made a tactical retreat (compromise) to preserve political capital for other fiscal fights.

                The next big fiscal fight is over the mix of Defense and Social Program cuts in the Sequestration, using the Debt Ceiling as a negotiation tool. Even Tea Party Congresspersons know that cuts don’t create jobs, so they want to preserve Military-Industrial jobs — one category of their biggest backers. They can’t preserve Defense jobs without fiscal compromise.

                Before the 2014 Election, House Republicans in tightly contested suburban districts will also need support from Republican governors and Chamber of Commerce backers. As you probably know, a majority of governors and the US Chamber of Commerce want more funds invested in all major modes of transportation. Every Republican governor having a large city in their state wants more Transit funding for job creation on their watch. Even Republican governors of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and New Jersey want more HSR funding and 37 governors of both stripes applied for ~$75B in HSR/Amtrak funding. The Chambers of Commerce know that ailing transportation infrastructure is costing America productivity and reducing its global competitive position.

                If only to create jobs in their districts and to obtain gubernatorial and chamber of commerce support for reelection, there is a 90% chance that at least 17 House Republicans will compromise to provide $80-90B/year of Highway, Transit and HSR/Amtrak funding, even as they fight for more Social Program cuts and less Defense cuts.

                IMHO, the only question is will 17-20 House Republicans compromise:

                in 1H 2013 as part of the Sequestration and Debt Ceiling negotiation
                in 2H 2013 for credited job creation on their resume in 2013 & 2014
                in 1H 2014 for pre-election project groundbreaking photo ops

  • Donk

    The Crenshaw line and Green Line are not going to generate many air passengers – they will primarily funnel in airport and hotel workers, since both lines serve relatively working-class neighborhoods and do not have good connections to the wealthier parts of LA that have much larger share of travelers. Transfers at the Expo Line, Blue Line, and to Metrolink/Amtrak/HSR at Norwalk (if ever built) will be required for this to be useful for air passengers. Also required will be expansion of the Green Line into the South Bay and Westside.

  • Donk

    What they need to do is consider the Metro Long-Term Plan in this whole thing. There are plans for an extnsion of the Green Line into the South Bay as well as a 405 line that would ultimately travel between the Valley to Westwood/UCLA to LAX. There are also discussions about a Lincoln Blvd Line that goes to Marina Del Rey and Santa Monica via Lincoln Blvd, as well as an extension of the Green Line to Norwalk.

    So ultimately, there may be 4 separate Green Line branches (2 north, one east, one south), with all four converging at Aviation and Century Blvd near LAX. For this reason, another light rail branch into LAX at that point would be foolish, especially if it dead-ends at Terminal 1. It would make the most sense to run those four branches thru Aviation/Century and just to branch the APM off at that point, where it can serve all of the terminals, the rental car facility, and airport hotels.

    The SFO connection is an example of this foolishness. The connection works well if you go into SF but is useless if you want to go south to Millbrae/Caltrain or to SJ.

    The only scenario where it would make sense to run into the terminals would be if the line were to continue under the north runway of LAX and up Sepulveda/405 or Lincoln.

    • Donk

      …make that 5 Green Line brnaches – I forgot to include the Crenshaw line. So really it would be 1 west (Lincoln), 2 north (405, Crenshaw), 1 east (Green Line to Norwalk), 1 south (Green Line to South Bay).

      So clearly, even if they connect one or two of these lines directly into LAX via direct light rail connection, the rest would still need to transfer at Aviation/Century. So may as well just have them all transfer to a better connected APM.

  • Jon Fostik

    Not sure if the matter has previously been addressed or not but what about a Metrolink Airport train running from Union Station? If an underground tunnel for light rail were to be used…couldn’t a two level tunnel for light rail and heavy rail be designed…just like the NY East Side Access?

  • Nathanael

    The question here is “what is wrong in the heads of the people at LAWA?”

    There are a couple of appropriate solutions. One is a people mover which extends to a nice set of cross-platform transfers to the Crenshaw line. The other is a nice loop through the terminals on the Crenshaw line.

    LAWA appears to be interested in neither option.

    • Looping a three-cabin Light Rail over the roadway to each terminal of LAX is not a good idea for practical reasons.

      Without additional Transit funding for a 405 Corridor Light Rail, Option 3 is currently the best choice.

      If a Measure R changes priority (drops the West San Anna Corridor) to fund 405 Corridor Light Rail phase 1 as Sherman Oaks-Westwood-Culver City-LAX, then Option 2 makes sense because it would connect Light Rail cross-platform to the LAWA APM in the Long Term Parking lot, rather than as a Light Rail stub-end pictured on Option 2.

  • “There are plans for an extension of the Green Line into the South Bay as well as a 405 line that would ultimately travel between the Valley to Westwood/UCLA to LAX.” – Donk

    I don’t think LA, LAWA in particular, is yet ready to prioritize world-class transit access to LAX. The APM with Green Line transfer is a sufficient mediocre solution for the medium-term.

    When LA decides to regain world-class status, an underground rail station in the center of the parking garage, with convenient access to the APM and walkway connections to each terminal, will be constructed. The train station will be served by Donk’s 405 subway line, Metrorail commuter rail to Union Station, and HSR. But very few in LA are yet ready to conceive of that level of transit investment. LAWA finally building an APM is a major step forward.

  • jaystar404

    Phoenix doesn’t have direct rail service to the airport but it is under construction. You do have to take a shuttle bus and then cross a pretty busy street to the light rail line. Not fun when arriving in the August heat.

  • AlexB

    I’ve read about the extensions of the Crenshaw and Green lines before and they never seemed all that well thought out. To maintain sufficient frequencies on all lines, it generally makes the most sense to reduce branching as much as possible. Therefore, it would be most logical for the Crenshaw line to take over the current route of the Green line south of Century Freeway and for the Green line to turn north and dead end at Century/Aviation, preparing both lines for with extensions and branches in both directions. That way, both services with provide access to the airport via the people mover in option 3 from this post and maintain maximum headways

    Using the Harbor subdivision to provide a new direct route (either Metrolink or Light Rail depending on cost effectiveness) from Union Station to the new station at Century/Aviation would be the fastest route from LAX to downtown. In the shorter term, why not simply connect the Crenshaw line to the Expo after the people mover and Crenshaw lines are complete? You could provide direct service from the airport to both downtown and Santa Monica, both major job centers; and the routes would connect at grade, minimizing cost. Does anyone know why this hasn’t been discussed? Does it have to do with capacity constraints in the downtown light rail tunnel?

    • Patrick

      “Does it have to do with capacity constraints in the downtown light rail tunnel?”

      According to Wikipedia:

      “At its northern terminus, Metro has decided not to directly connect the Crenshaw corridor track to the Metro Expo Line track. Such a connection would have allowed the Crenshaw Line to interline with the Expo Line and terminate in Downtown Los Angeles. However, Metro argues that this is not operationally feasible (three lines would share track on Flower Street, leading to delays), and is therefore not worth the cost.”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crenshaw_Line_(Los_Angeles_Metro)

    • AlexB and Patrick,

      LA MTA has considered the items you mention. I have also personally reviewed this concept map with the Green Line product manager and others with the MTA, http://www.soulofamerica.com/la-metrorail-concept-map-2035.phtml.

      I’d bet anything that LA MTA has a set of Metro Expansion Master Plan scenarios, but can not divulge them for local politics reasons. In most scenarios, they envision the Crenshaw line going up to Wilshire Blvd via Venice-SanVincente-Fairfax, as indicated on my concept map or via Venice-SanVincente-LaBrea to Wilshire Blvd. Once either Crenshaw to Wilshire Blvd scenario is funded, the Crenshaw Line will be adapted to run under the Expo Line.

      At the end of the day and eventual extension to Hollywood & Highland Red Line station, both Metro Heavy Rail and Light Rail will have more connections driving patronage.

      If Harbor Subdivision is a lower priority at present. If it is eventually funded on the 2030s, it will be used to connect to the Crenshaw Line near Inglewood. That means it would likely be a semi-express Light Rail from LAX to Union Station. Given Harbor Subdivision’s low political priority before 2035, we did not include it on the 2035 Metrorail Concept Map.

      • No love for the Vermont subway? Vermont has more bus riders today than Crenshaw, so it makes more sense to have it rather than Crenshaw be the north-south trunk. Or is the point that Vermont is just a strong corridor because of the subway transfer, and Crenshaw will become more important when the Westside subway is built?

      • Nathanael

        “I’d bet anything that LA MTA has a set of Metro Expansion Master Plan scenarios, but can not divulge them for local politics reasons.”

        Thomas: from what I can see, there appears to be a concerted effort to sandbag all proposals for rail in the San Fernando Valley, in favor of demonstrably inferior car-oriented proposals. Is that part of the Master Plan? The political history of this is, of course, nasty, involving the Robbins bill and Yaroslavsky’s Curitiba-fanboy behavior.

    • AlexB and Patrick,

      LA MTA has considered the items you mention. I have also personally reviewed this concept map with the Green Line product manager and others with the MTA, http://www.soulofamerica.com/la-metrorail-concept-map-2035.phtml.

      I’d bet anything that LA MTA has a set of Metro Expansion Master Plan scenarios, but can not divulge them for local politics reasons. In most scenarios, they envision the Crenshaw line going up to Wilshire Blvd via Venice-SanVincente-Fairfax, as indicated on my concept map or via Venice-SanVincente-LaBrea to Wilshire Blvd. Once either Crenshaw to Wilshire Blvd scenario is funded, the Crenshaw Line will be adapted to run under the Expo Line.

      At the end of the day and eventual extension to Hollywood & Highland Red Line station, both Metro Heavy Rail and Light Rail will have more connections driving patronage.

      Harbor Subdivision Union Station to LAX is a lower priority at present. If it is eventually funded on the 2030s, it will be used to connect to the Crenshaw Line near Inglewood. That means it would likely be a semi-express Light Rail from LAX to Union Station. Given Harbor Subdivision’s low political priority before 2035, we did not include it on the 2035 Metrorail Concept Map.

      • Donk

        ThomasD, your map is one of the most realistic I have seen so far. However, if you are going to include some of the items like the streetcar lines and other connections with low “politcal priority” like the Green Line to Norwalk and the line thru Burbank and along Chandler Blvd, then I would think you should include the Harbor Subdivision.

        • That’s a fair criticism of a 2035 concept map. We’ll look into including Habor Subdivision connecting the Crenshaw line near Crenshaw & Florence Ave in the next revision.

  • Nathaniel P.

    The problem with this proposal is that it does not include clear plan for heavy rail to LAX, making certain these proposals do not conflict, because both are required.

    Premium Express Passenger Rail from LA Union Station to LAX, modeled on the London Heathrow Express, would help make Union Station the center of the city and help pay down the infrastructure costs. Heathrow Airport Express charges about $30 each way, much more than a commuter system, but serves a very different purpose. Heavy rail express to LAX would massively improve the California’s planned heavy rail high speed rail system. Premium HSR express train lines direct to the LAX terminal, (via stopping at LA Union Station,) from Orange County, and from San Diego, and from Las Vegas, would help pay down the Union-LAX line construction.

    Air Cargo on High Speed Rail, like the EuroCarex (EU) business model and the old Railway Express Agency (US), and French La Poste on TGV, to/from LAX to LA/Ontario (UPS sort), and Oakland (Fedex sort), and Las Vegas, and Salt Lake City, and eventually north to Redding CA, and Seattle WA, and east to Denver, KC, St Louis, Louisville KY, Memphis TN, Chicago, would drastically increase the importance of the LAX hub for commerce, because rail costs less per tonne/mile, and would help establish long haul lines for passengers.

    Because LA needs both express heavy rail to LAX, and commuter systems such as light rail, clear planning is required. Premium Express passenger rail to the Airport that strongly leverages the proposed HSR rail networks make considerable sense, while air cargo on HSR is not implemented yet but massively sensible for California and Nevada.

    • Adirondacker12800

      Heavy rail express to LAX would massively improve the California’s planned heavy rail high speed rail system.

      So that people can take BART to SFO, HSR to LA, change trains and get on a plane that is going to a destination served by SFO?

      • Eric

        HSR is supposed to replace air travel for routes within California. But for many of those passengers, LA (or SF) is not the final destination. They take a commuter flight to LA, then change planes and fly to Atlanta or Beijing or wherever. If you want these passengers to switch to HSR, you need an efficient way of getting them from LA Union Station to LAX.

  • NCarlson

    Because everyone in the Central Valley is closer to SFO than LAX, all destinations served by LAX can be reached from Ontario and there is no local demand for a quick, traffic free, connection to LAX.

    In all seriousness, in terms of HSR integration an airport express is aimed at intercontinental and Central Valley traffic. This sort of traffic is not going to mess around with multiple local transit connections, but can be very well served with a proper HSR airport express transfer. No this isn’t a top priority, but it is valuable project, and not a particularly costly one once the peoplemover and transportation hub are in place.

  • Nathaniel P.

    Given how self explanatory my proposal was, I am uncertain why red herrings cities/airport were introduced without commenters also suggesting high speed rail infrastructure be connected to their examples destinations. E.g. Extending air-cargo-on-HSR to SFO, and examining if that new rail spur or Milbrae can be added to Cali-HSR, and if Milbrae to SFO can be directly connected, for passengers, would be logically consistent here. Given how many people live near LA Union Station, and in San Diego and Orange County, the local Central Valley market is not the market HSR connection reason.

    HIGH SPEED RAIL TO FAR AIRPORTS
    The most interesting market for greener transportation, is moving people by super express rail in the direction of the destination airport, e.g. from LA to SFO for flights to the Pacific North West, (Eugene OR, to Vancouver BC,) and to Asia, is very sensible. Bay Area to LAX makes sense for Mexico flights. LA to Las Vegas Airport, and Bay Area to Las Vegas Airport, both make sense for traffic toward the east coast. Improving check-in in and screening on the train would eventually be required to do this “greener high speed rail to flights” seriously.

    US MILITARY SUBSIDY PER GALLON OF CRUDE OIL
    Given the US already spends more than $5 on the US Military per gallon of crude oil used in the US, such green rail business models make real economic sense. If crude oil costs $84 per barrel, then the crude oil costs only $2 per gallon. US aviation uses 30 times the fuel per passenger mile than US freight rail, and air planes use between 10 times the fuel and 10% more fuel per passenger mile than High Speed Rail, depending on who’s efficiency data you believe.

  • Ocean Railroader

    I once used the Miami Metro system to travel 15 miles from the Airport to the hotel near the cruise ship port and was able to travel on the full system and people mover for $2.00. The hotel meanwhile wanted $40 bucks a day to park a car which was funny. I really think having any type of heavy rail or light rail link to the airport is a good idea.

  • Fact fail! Denver currently has no form of rail at the airport and there are no other airports in the Denver metro area which have rail service. It is under construction but it definitely does not already exist as your note makes it seem.

  • Nathaniel P.

    @Andrew F: Los Angeles is the 2nd Largest US City (US Census Metropolitan Statistical Area), while Denver is the 21st (as of 2010 US Census). Why the “Fact fail” comment?

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